USAF F-22 Raptor test squadron transitions into NGAD test squadron

Lockheed Martin

The F-22 Raptor Combined Test Force (CTF) has transitioned into the Air Dominance Combined Test Force.  

This new entity will conduct flight tests on the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, the upcoming fighter jet of the United States Air Force (USAF) and its associated systems. The Air Dominance CTF will continue its work on the F-22 fighter enhancements. 

“The establishment of the Air Dominance CTF shows that we are becoming more integrated and more lethal, while also shaping the future of air combat,” said Lieutenant Colonel Michael Coleman, the newly appointed commander of the 411th Flight Test Squadron. “We do not fight as individual platforms, but rather we leverage a system of systems approach across the entire kill chain.” 

The initial role of the 411th Flight Test Squadron was to hold flight tests for the Advanced Tactical Fighter program, which saw the Lockheed YF-22 and Northrop YF-23 compete. After the YF-22 was selected in 1991, it moved on to flight test the Lockheed Martin F-22. After the Raptor entered into service in 1998, the squadron continued to test and improve the air superiority fighter.  

The squadron operates out of Edwards Air Force Base in California and will continue to do so for the NGAD program. 

When will the NGAD be revealed? 

lockheed martin NGAD concept art
The NGAD concept presented by Lockheed Martin

Like most if not all sixth-generation fighter concepts currently under development, the USAF Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program envisions the future of air combat not as a singular fighter, but as a so-called “system of systems.” 

While by now all major aerospace companies in the United States have expressed interest in the program, USAF Secretary Frank Kendall recently suggested that only two contractors were currently directly working with the branch to design the NGAD, as reported by Breaking Defense

On May 18, 2023, the Department of the USAF issued a confidential request for proposals to the industry, seeking an engineering and manufacturing development contract for the Next Generation Air Dominance Platform. The goal is to grant the contract in 2024.  

The NGAD is expected to enter service in the 2030s, after which the F-22A fleet will be retired.  

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